Wednesday, October 12, 2011

When Love was Born...

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. – Isaiah 9:6 (NIV)

When Love Was Born

I am writing this on a mid-October day, when the temperatures are still fairly warm in Middle Tennessee. The leaves haven't even begun to hit their peak for fall changes yet. And while folks around us are just getting geared up for that other holiday at the end of this month, my church music buddies and I are already knee-deep into rehearsals for our churches' Christmas presentations.

Christmas is already on our minds! Hard to believe it's almost that time of year isn't it??? Stores are already putting up their decorations. Shoppers are already making the hunts for their treasures... We're looking up recipes, getting organized, and preparing for the busy days ahead.

And much to the chagrin of others, we're singing and playing Christmas music already.

Without a doubt, we’re already getting the looks as we drive around town, with windows down, Christmas music cranked up on the music players of our choice, rehearsing lines and are singing "Variations on Jingle Bells" at the top of our lungs…

As my friend, Kevin says, “Yes. We’re church musicians. We fa-la-la-la-la in October!”

And if you read the scripture passage I placed at the top of the page, I’ll bet you are singing some familiar words from The Messiah right about now, aren’t you??? (Or if you’re more of an instrumental type, you’re playing your favorite instrumental part in your head!) That will put you into the mood for Christmas, won't it?!?

“For unto us a child is born… Unto us… A Son is given… Unto us… A Son is given… For unto us a child is born… And the government shall be upon His shoulders…. And His name shall be call-ed… Wonderful… Counselor… The Mighty God… The Everlasting Father… The Prince of Peace… The Everlasting Father… The Prince of Peace.”
When Handel wrote his infamous work, The Messiah, much of the text was taken straight from the Bible. And what a wonderful text he chose!

Make no mistake. When Isaiah wrote those words, his intent was clear: he was declaring that God had promised a Messiah, and he would save the people from their sins! He (Isaiah) was relying solely on the promise that God would follow through with His promise to send a Messiah. This was something that only God could do! No man could do what God had promised.
Long before Isaiah penned his words, or before Handel penned The Messiah, God had decided that there would be a Promised One.

.... Long before the angels sang their first note.

…. Long before the shepherds watched their flocks.

…. Long before the stars were made.

…..Long before the manger was built.

…. Long before Bethlehem.

…. Long before wise men came from the East.

…. Long before the foundations of the earth.

…. Long before you and I were even a twinkle in God’s eye….

Love was born!

This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” – 1 John 4:10 (NIV)

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

A Cord of Three Strands

"Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up! Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken." - Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

As a violinist, I am often asked to play for weddings, and have participated in many beautiful ceremonies over the years. A couple of years ago, I was invited to play for a wedding for a couple from my home church. Instead of the traditional "unity candle", the bride and groom had chosen to braid a cord of three strands, based on this particular passage of scripture from Ecclesiastes.

Solomon was writing a book about vanities, and when he got to chapter four, he was actually talking a bit about miserable old men who were basically hermits! And his advice to these hermits was to get out of your shells, and find yourselves a friend or a mate... and enjoy life.

Solomon was saying that we need one another to spur us onto love and good works... And that when we allow ourselves to be the kind of people that God wants us to be, it is hard for anything to separate us. There forms a triad of sorts between husband, wife and God... The closer we grow to God, the closer the triangle becomes and three actually become one.

But what happens when the mate dies????  I would submit to you that when God is in the midst of those types of marriages, those who are left behind find their Maker to be their husband... and as He has promised, a Father to their children as well.

Dear young widow, you are loved by your Heavenly Father... and it is He who:

  • Sustains you
  • Protects you
  • Provides for you
  • Enjoys your company
  • Wants to talk with you through His Word
  • Goes with you
  • Goes before you
  • Gives you strength to face your battles
  • Gives you encouragement for your days
  • Lightens your burdens
  • Knows you better than you know yourself
  • Knows you better than anyone else knows you
  • Created you for His own pleasure!
  • Gave His life for you, simply because He loves you and wants to spend eternity with you.
So often, I hear from young widows who are lonely for companionship within a couple of years of the passing of their spouse. Many of them find themselves hurt and broken-hearted after rebounded relationships went sour. Sometimes this happens because they feel guilty for dating too soon after the death of their spouse, or they compare the new friend to their former spouse. 

I think the key to finding the right time or the right person after loss really is all about letting God choose for you. Allow Him to decide when it's time, and let Him bring that person to you. In the meantime, enjoy being loved and spoiled by your Heavenly Daddy, who loves you so!!!

Monday, August 15, 2011

The Domino Effect...

"He must increase but I must decrease." - John 3:30

"Let no one say when he is tempted, "I am being tempted by God," for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one.  But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire.  Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death." - James 1:13-15

Anyone who knows me knows that I am pretty much built like one of the lollipop kids on the Wizard of Oz... I'm quite short, and I have a rather wide girth. Sometimes with my low estrogen, I think the beard is coming next, but that's a story for another time! HA!

Anyway, my short stature makes for some fun times when I drive. I have some pretty long legs, so reaching the pedals isn't the issue. It's seeing over the dashboard of my vehicle that causes me problems. I am forever hitting the curbs or potholes... and knocking my tires out of balance. This happens to me more than I would like to admit, but I've actually learned something from the experiences. When I knock one tire out of balance, the rest of them don't wear correctly.

I think that's true in the Christian life, too!

Sometimes I think we get knocked down in one area or another and then one by one, the other areas of our life are affected by the one area that is out of balance. It really doesn't matter whether the area that starts the fall is in the emotional, physical, psychological/mental, or spiritual... a failure in one area will affect the other three.

Take for instance my severely neglected health... My failure to take care of my body has caused me to be severely obese. And that puts me at risk for all sorts of horrible diseases. But that also hinders in some ways my ability to serve Christ fully! For instance, I've taken two mission trips overseas in the last year. On both trips, I found myself huffing and puffing, trying to keep up with the rest of my teammates/ co-laborers in Christ because I was just too overweight. Getting buckled up on the airplanes was a task because of my waistline. Working with kids outside in the heat was not an easy task.  Why? Because I was not in shape for the trip!

My witness has also been rendered ineffective by some because of my obesity. One afternoon while teaching at another church, I was trying to share Jesus with one of my students, and he said, "Isn't gluttony one of the seven deadly sins?" He was implying that I was too fat and I had no business talking to him about Jesus, if I was not living for him. I responded to that with, "They are all deadly sins." But I still came home with the thought that I would never get through to that kid so long as I was in his eyes too fat to be talking Jesus!

What did all of that do to my self-esteem??? Let's just say it wasn't pretty!  Yes, I know that God still loves me and that His love is not based on my dress size. But if He had to judge the contents of my heart and whether I trust Him based soley on what went into my mouth (or what came out of it), there are times that I'm afraid that He would be severely dissappointed in me...  (I'm thankful that's not the case!!!)

Soon after all of that, I talked with some of our church staff about starting a face to face group for widows. One of the guys mentioned the possibility of doing a video series of lessons. Can you imagine the horrible thoughts going through my head about how the camera packs on the pounds??? And then we just end up with a downward emotional spiral...

But things have been changing in recent months. For nearly two full months now, my husband and I have been faithfully making changes to our lifestyles. We've started with an exercise program at a local gym/pool. And we're starting to make good choices with nutrition.

For me, that's a decision that has spiritual impact and implications. I don't want to be an ineffective servant of Christ. He's God of all of me, and He is trustworthy and certainly worthy of my worship in this area, too... I don't want my weight to be a hindrance in the effectiveness of my witness or my ability to serve. I don't want my unhealthy body to be a distraction to those that I might tell about Jesus, either...

Jesus isn't just at the center of my life. He is my life!!!! He goes everywhere I go. He knows everything I am doing, what I am thinking, where I am. He's a part of every decision. It's all about Him.

There's a worship song made popular a few years ago by Matt Redmond called, "The Heart of Worship" that we sometimes sing in our churches. "When the music fades, and all is slipped away... and I simply come. Longing just to bring something that's of worth that will bless Your heart... I'll bring You more than a song for a song in itself is not what You have required. You search much deeper within than the way things appear... You're looking into my heart! I'm coming back to the heart of worship and it's all about You... All about You, Jesus. I'm sorry, Lord for the thing I've made it when it's all about You, all about You, Jesus."

Yes, it's all about You, Jesus. Even when it comes to crazy things like keeping in shape.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Rejoicing in the Dance...

Then shall the young women rejoice in the dance, and the young men and the old shall be merry. I will turn their mourning into joy; I will comfort them, and give them gladness for sorrow.  - Jeremiah 31:13

Two years ago, when I began the Mourning into Dancing Blog, I wrote a post that was entitled, "Dancing in the Dark." And I spoke of learning to dance with God, as a small child would learn to dance on the feet of her daddy.

There is a time that comes to the Christian's life when she finds herself deep into the dance with her Heavenly Daddy... a finding of peace as she deepens her relationship with God.

He extends His hand to us... and then offers the invitation... and thus, the dance begins.

This is a love relationship at its best... God has given Himself to us... and then we respond by loving in return... and desiring to know Him more and more. We learn to not only read His word, but to apply it to our lives on a daily basis. In short, He becomes our universe! He is all we desire... and in that desiring, we seek to know His every heartbeat... We hang on His every word...

And the longer we dance, the more we pay attention to every detail of every thought, every whisper, every action, anticipating nearly every move He makes... And our rhythm begins to match His... and step by step, we finally become One.

And in Him, we rejoice! Because He has offered the invitation... It is He who takes us by the hand and twirls us about the room! It is He who teaches us in the way we should go. (Isaiah 48:17)

Rejoice, my friend! The music is playing... and Your Heavenly Daddy wants to dance with you!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Undivided Attention

"Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!" - Ps. 46:10

Yesterday, I had the unusual opportunity of being without responsibility as a lead worshipper... at least from being on the platform, that is. On any given Sunday, my leadership role at our church largely consists of sitting as the concertmaster of our church worship orchestra.

Anyway... We play nearly every Sunday throughout the year, and with few exceptions. Yesterday, the worship orchestra was enjoying a rare morning "off " (meaning that our presence was not required and we were allowed to sit with our families.) For me this meant that I had the opportunity to participate in the entire hour of our small group discussion and could sit through worship with my husband for the entire service. This was a real treat because I usually have to leave my small group time early to tune my instrument (I have a very small window of time before the brass begin to warm up) and prepare for worship. And, sometimes, when the orchestra is not playing, I have been known to sub on a praise team. That also wasn't the case yesterday and that was a very good thing.

I need to have moments when I don't do anything... except listen to God. I need to rest occassionally. That's hard to do when your life's tempo is most often measured in "warp speed." (I actually had a friend tell me recently that she never knew me to not be in a hurry!)

God took advantage of the time when He actually had my undivided attention yesterday and taught me something....

I learned something new from the scriptures when paying attention to the Holy Spirit yesterday and not to the clock or what's next... While sitting in the small group session yesterday, I actually had a light bulb click on about a particular passage that I hadn't ever really thought about until then. (More on that in another post.)

Afterwards, it dawned on me that God probably likes to have my undivided attention occassionally so that He can get stuff through that thick skull of mine. That's when He can take my head that is seemingly filled with silly putty, empty it of the junk inside... and try to teach me something that if I don't manage to get it twisted up will actually have a chance to remotely look like His wisdom.  :)

There comes a time when busyness has to be set aside, and we have to just sit at the Lord's feet and rest for a little bit... and drink in whatever it is that He wants to teach us. And those of us who have large ministry (lay or professional) commitments need to take the time to rest as well. There comes a time when we have to choose carefully how we will spend our time so that we best utilize our time for the Kingdom's sake. Remember -- even Jesus told Martha that Mary had chosen the better part... (Luke 10:38-42)  We need to learn to choose wisely so that we choose the better part as well.

Sometimes God calls us to do that for a season, but sometimes it just means taking a short break -- one that just lasts for a moment. I enjoyed my moment yesterday.


Thursday, April 7, 2011

Redeemed Forever...

Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever! 2 Let the redeemed of the LORD say so, whom he has redeemed from trouble 3 and gathered in from the lands, from the east and from the west, from the north and from the south. - Psalm 107:1-3

I recently returned from a mission trip to Lima Peru, and had the privilege while there to share the gospel with some of the students at the International Christian School there. One of my students, a third grader responded to the gospel and asked Jesus to be her Savior during one of the teaching hours! When I was sharing that with one of my dear friends and mentors from days gone by, I said that it was "totally cool." (Or something to that effect. But his response was "No - it's bigger than that. Eternal."

When Jesus saves us, His blood covers us forever!

Our past is forgiven. (I John 1:9)
Our life is made new. (I Cor. 5:17)
Our home is in Heaven. (John 14:1-6)
Our future is secure. (Romans 8:35-39)
Our inheritance is the same as His. (Romans 8:17)

All because He redeemed us forever.

Our hope is in Him.

What an awesome privilege we have then to share that with others! We have the unbelievable opportunity to share that with the world... Our world... So, why don't we??? Why do we not share the truth that we've been given with the folks around us???

Can I challenge you (if you are a Christ-follower) to tell others about the Jesus in you??? Simply tell them your own story. How Jesus changed your life forever... Don't worry about whether they will respond to what you've said. The Holy Spirit will take care of that. That's His job. So the pressure's off...

And if you don't know Jesus, well, I would sure love to introduce Him to you... Talk to me. I'll be happy to tell you about how He has changed my life forever!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Loaves and Fishes

"And he said to them, "How many loaves do you have? Go and see." And when they had found out, they said, "Five, and two fish." " - Mark 6:38

God never ceases to amaze me with how He can take something insignificant or small in our eyes, and use it for His glory.

Take this story from the Gospel of Mark, for instance. Jesus and the disciples had been very busy. They had already spent the day with the crowd, teaching and Jesus had been preaching all day. In addition, Jesus was just about emotionally spent, too. He had found out about his dear friend, Lazarus' death, as well.

The crowd was tired, had traveled a long way and they were hungry. There was no place to buy food nearby... Then came the disciples' asking of Jesus, "Can you send them away??"

You know the story.... Jesus told the disciples that they should find them something to eat... and all they came up with was a little boy's lunch. I can only imagine the conversation:

Disciple A: "Hey, Jesus... This all we found."
Disciple B: "Looks like it's leftovers from yesterday's Fred Lobster meal. Just a handful of cheese biscuits and a couple of fishsticks. Can't feed this crowd with that!"
The rest of the disciples: "Nope. Not THIS crowd! Send them away, would ya, Jesus????"

Jesus looks into the little boy's lunch sack, pulls out one of the cheese biscuits, breaks it, asks God to use it and then does the same with the fish. God multiplied the small gift that the little boy brought that day... and fed thousands of people with it! The Bible says that there was enough to feed everybody there, and still had twelve baskets of food leftover!

There are several messages in this passage to us:

The first message here is that nothing small we offer to God ever goes unnoticed.... a hug, a word of encouragement, a thank you, a kind gesture... giving a cold cup of water in Christ's name. He can use even the smallest of things to bless many. Often we are quick to give God the bigger things... or the religious things... or certain things that we think would be pleasing to Him in some way. And in truth, it's the smaller things -- the ones that we think are insignificant that God uses the most.

The second thing that we can take from this lesson is this -- The multiplication process comes from God, not the gift or from us. The leftover kids' meal was just a kids' meal until God got ahold of it. :) No matter how hard we try, we cannot make that happen, but God can!

The third lesson we can take from this is that once we place that in His hands and let Him do with it as He pleases, He is able to do great things. The Bible doesn't say whether the little boy offered the lunch to the disciples or whether the disciples just took it. But in either case, it landed in the hands of the disciples, who then took it to Jesus. Anyway you slice it, that required some trust and obedience on the part of that child.... God saw the little boy's faith, trust and obedience and He blessed the small gift and fed several thousand.

The fourth lesson we can take from this is that we don't know one thing about the little boy outside of this story. It would have been easy for folks around the little boy to congratulate him and tossle his hair.... and call him the hero for offering his lunch. But Jesus was the REAL star here... It wasn't about the lunch or the little boy.... It was about Jesus!

So, I just wanna ask... Whatcha got in your lunch sack today to offer to Jesus??? What do you hold in your own hands that can be offered back to Christ and used to bless others??? Are you giving Him just the big stuff??? The religious stuff??? Or are you offering Him everything???? Are you doing this freely, with His kingdom purposes in mind?? Are you quick to brag on God for what HE has done??? Or, do you simply try to take credit for something you have offered to Him???

Abba Father... Daddy... We desire never to withhold anything from you.... not the smallest of gifts... not our money... not our time... not our efforts... not our attitudes...not our motives... not our jobs... families... health or anything else... our loaves and fishes. We give it all for Your kingdom's sake, with Your purposes in mind, and for Your Glory. In Jesus' name we pray. Amen.